« AnteriorContinuar »
What is most surprising is that, while I heard enlightened Romans condemn this unjust treatment of the Jews, the votaries of Romanism made a virtue of it. A Canadian priest, with whom I travelled, called it an act of kindness on the part of the Popes for the protection of the Jews. An English lady now at Rome, whom I knew about thirty years ago to go about doing good in London, and taking a special interest in the conversion of the Jews, tells me now, as a faithful convert to the Church of Rome, that that which we dare not do in our private capacity, those in their elevated station may be justified in doing, as instruments for the punishment of the Jews. To this I briefly replied that God chooses, like ourselves, suitable instruments for His work. We do not take coals from the hearth with a pair of silver sugar-tongs, but with tongs of an inferior metal, as of iron ; to punish His people God chooses a Pharaoh, a King of Assyria, a Pope.
Before I could make that poor people aware that my object in coming there was not to make purchases, I was beset on all sides, as they in general sit outside their shops; and if I walked on one side, those of the opposite side came over, positively laying hold upon my arms to drag me over, and especially the women. The truth is that I could see their shops always empty, and they are like ravening, starved creatures. If I observed an isolated man, and tried to enter into conversation with him, a crowd would soon collect round, and I should thus be exposed, not merely to inconvenience, but, what is worse, to the notice of the police. But bold as they might appear from this description, so timid are they in conversation that, speak what you will, you hardly ever obtain an expression of either approbation or dissension; they only stare at you. How awkward this is in setting truth before such a man can easily be imagined. An Ancona Jew at Rome told me that, from their ill-treatment, the Roman Jews have become timid, imbecile, and unfit for anything. We are easily reminded of Levit, xxvi. 36: “And of them that are left of you, I will send a faintness into their hearts in the land of their enemies, and the sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them.” This is literally fulfilled in that unhappy people; they always seem to look about, as if they were frightened of some one.
There is, notwithstanding, a peculiar Providence hovering over that benighted people ; their very existence under such heavy afflictions already sufficiently proves it, under ill-treatments which, left to the course of nature, would have long ago annihilated them ; but they also exist as a regularly formed community, clinging tenaciously to their ancient rites and customs, to maintain which it requires both energy and means. Their synagogue is the best and neatest building in the Ghetto, well fittedup inside, and divided into different departments, one of which is appropriated to study and private devotion. The school for the education of their poor children (Talmud torah) is certainly a very spacious, but a very unfriendly old building, the filthy access to which is enough to disgust the stranger. It contains between 500 and 600 children, very few of whose parents are able to contribute anything to its support, and yet this is, perhaps, one of the best organised Jewish schools in Europe, as, indeed, the Jewish schools are considered the best in Italy. These poor creatures receive here a secular and religious education, divided into seven classes. I was surprised at the progress of these children. In one of their classes they translated from messenger of peace, a thundering Dominican, represents to them, under awful maledictions, the damnable character of their own religion, and the necessity of taking refuge for salvation in the bosom of the church. This parental admonition is followed in the same strain by a string of curses upon their want of feeling, and their obstinacy hitherto manifested on those repeated weekly occasions. All the attempts made hitherto by that unfortunate people to escape those conversion sermons have as yet failed. They used to stop their ears; but the ears of the audience are now examined. They used to sleep and snore; but there are now overseers appointed to awake them with violent blows. But one expedient they retain, which could not be avoided, coughing, blowing noses, and yawning. But this they do so loudly that even the thundering voice of the Dominican is drowned in it. They leave the church with a wild laughter and secret cursings upon their tyrants."
the Hebrew Bible into Italian by merely looking at the text, with such a facility that, with my best endeavours, I could hardly follow them. The teachers treated me with much kindness. They complained of a want of books, especially Hebrew Bibles, requesting me to intercede on their behalf with the English Bible Society. They indeed received some supply from somewhere, but school-books soon wear out. I believe them quite deserving of Christian sympathy in this respect. I found the teachers intelligent men, and I invited them to my lodgings, which invitation they readily accepted.
In the same building is the talmudical academy, or Yeshibah, an assembly of scholars studying the Talmud, under the presidency of a rabbi. I was received here also with much courtesy, all to a man taking off their hats, and a seat was assigned to me. I begged of them not to be disturbed, and they began to continue their study bare-headed. I mention this as another instance of their timidity and subjection, as no other strict Jew in the world would ever dare to utter a sentence from holy writ with his head bare; nay, he would not even eat or drink except his head be covered. One of the party, in a very kind manner, explained to me the subject in hand, and I continued with them for some time, now and then asking a question. On taking leave, they invited me to visit them again, which I promised to do at my first convenience.
These visits became the chief basis of my humble endeavours among the Roman Jews: both the teachers of the school and some of the members of the Yeshibah visited me statedly, when hours yere spent at a time in religious conversation, the searching of the Holy Scriptures, and freely and frankly reading portions from the New Testament. I am happy to state that I found among them both very intelligent men, open to conviction, and most amiable characters. I made a point to contribute as much as lay in me to their comfort and consolation, pointing out in the prophets the salvation and blessings God had in store for Israel, to which the New Testament equally testifies, but also that these may already be enjoyed in Christ Jesus. I read many portions from the Epistle to the Romans, proving the prophetic character of that epistle, how it gives the lie to the very church to which it was addressed; but these not having continued in His goodness, and having boasted, as at this day, against the natural branches, they are even now about to be cut off, and that Israel may now again raise their head. There are also traces of missionary work having been applied here. The New Testament in Hebrew is known and possessed by some, as also the Old Paths, which latter they are very anxious to obtain in the Hebrew language. Hebrew books in general, assigned to the Jews, are passed here without difficulty. I believe that we have reason to hope that soon our way will be cleared, when the Gospel will be freely preached within the walls of ancient Rome. May the Lord hasten that time!
O that the people of England could fully know the real state of darkness in which Italy is held on every side! They would surely redouble their efforts in order to introduce the light of the Gospel of Christ Jesus !
At LEGHORN the work of the Lord is making satisfactory progress, by the Divine blessing on the course pursued by Dr. Mayer.
Our dear and venerated friend Dr. CAPADOSE thus refers to the deep interest he feels in the progress of the cause in Italy :
With delight I follow the details given in the reports of the Jewish Herald that you are so kind to continue in sending to me. All the endeavours your Committee has made in promoting our good cause, in behalf of my poor and beloved brethren in the flesh in Italy, have my sympathy and prayers. I was very much pleased remarking how our dear brother Dr. Mayer succeeded in Livorno and.
Tuscany, and I hope and expect, knowing the faithfulness of the Lord, that His blessed Spirit will crown the evangelical work, and give the increase on what Paul planted and Apollos watered. My good friend, I entertain great hope for their efforts. You know the poor Jews of Italy hear and see now at first what is the true Gospel, what is true Christendom; till now they have not seen more than a miserable worship of images, with all the appendages of the false church of Rome, in all her splendour and carnal character, exercised by the most cruel persecutions, and oppressing and dishonouring conduct against the sons of Abraham. Now they can hear the true character of Christendom, and by searching the Scriptures, and comparing the prophecies with the fulfilment, the Old with the New Testament, awake (oh! may it be !) to a new life, and acknowledge with thanks and adoration that the expected Messiah is the Christ that came into the world to save sinners.
Dr. C. adds this gratifying intelligence :
Onr prayer-meetings are still maintained since 1846, every month, in this city and others. Here I am president, and mostly conduct the meeting. This evening we had a very large meeting of all classes; 500 or 600 ladies and gentlemen, inferior class and high-ranked. A faithful clergyman spoke about the 80th Psalm, on the future of Israel, and I gave some details of your work in Italy, praying that the collection for those meetings might be to sustain the evangelisation of Dr. Mayer and Mr. Davidson in Italy, by your Committee. The small sum collected I, as president of the friends of Israel in the Hague, will enlarge to the amount of a hundred guiden, Dutch money.
SYRIA. Dr. Philip has been suffering severely in consequence of a fall from his horse, but has pursued his work among the Jews very successfully. He writes:
You will have expected to hear from me before this, but unfortunately things will happen which prevent us from executing our intentions, and even from fulfilling accustomed duties. The delay of my writing to you was caused by a severe accident with which I met, having fractured two of my left ribs, and I received at the same time a kick from a horse on my left knee. I shall not enter into the details of my sufferings, which were very great for some days; but I am thankful to be able to say that I am now convalescent, and require only to take common care in order to be fully restored again. I thank God for His kindness to me under these trials, and for restoring ine again to a good measure of health ; at the same time, the accident made me more and more mindful of the uncertainty of health and life, and of all earthly things, and of the necessity of employing every moment at our disposal to the service and glory of God, not knowing how the days of our usefulness may be shortened. However, even during the time of my illness, I have been able to do something, at least as soon as I was able to move again about the house ; we had during that time, every day, ten and twelve Jews at work at the model farm, with whom I had more frequent opportunity to converse during that period.
My work in the town I have carried on as usual, with the exception of these two weeks of illness. One of the individuals whom I mentioned to you in my last letter has been studying hard the New Testament; he seems to me to be an earnest seeker, after the truth, though not without those obstinate barriers which the natural heart places always in the way in such cases. For example, when I saw him the last time, he told me that he could believe that Christ was the Messiah, but not that His religion should have the power to convert the heart; he could not believe, he said, in invisible things, and in such a work as the operations of the Spirit. I proved to him, from his
own inward experience, that he was wrong, and showed him, from the convictions which had gained upon him during a considerable time, convincing him of some of his former errors, and sins, and unbelief (all of which he had told me), that these ought to be sufficient evidence for him to believe in some invisible power, which produced these convictions, and brought on these changes in his mind; that he had the evidences within himself, and that he could not be deluded by them; and that if he reflected earnestly upon this, I was sure he would find this theory more certain and more correct than was the case with visible objects. Then he brought forward again his objections to the divinity of Christ, and after having reasoned with him for some time upon this subject, proving this doctrine to him out of the Scriptures, he said, “I wish (could beliere it. I know," he said, “ you have proved to me all these things, more forcibly than our rabbis can contradict them; I see them, but I cannot believe them." "We," I said, “can employ only those means which God has placed at our disposal, human intellect, with which we can read, reason, and understand the Word of God, and by means of which we are able to discern between that which is true and that which is not true; but the power to believe, man cannot convey—this is entirely the work of God, and to have that work done within us, we must pray to God, and ask Him for it.” He told me then of his inability to pray without his Hebrew prayer-book, which he took down from his shelf, and taking it from him, I praised some of the beautiful expressions contained therein, but at the same time showed him that none of these prayers were suitable to his individual case, He is a subject of considerable interest to me, and I cherish the hope that he is not far from that path which will lead him to Christ. The other two individuals are reading tracts and the New Testament, but I see no progress with them, and often think that they are reading and coming to the dispensary to converse with me for the sake of arguing; but, however much they may dispute and argue against the truth, I shall hold out with them, setting before them the truth of Christ and Him crucified, which has often conquered more inveterate
opposers than they. I have daily a number of Jews at the dispensary, with whom I read and converse, whilst I am preparing the medicines for them. However trilling our mission progress may appear, I have every reason to be thankful for the many opportunities which I have to set forth Christ and Him crucified, to so many of our Jewish brethren, as well as to many others, both Mahomedans and Christians. For much, for this wide opening, I have to thank the model farm, as by my administration of that institution I am brought in contact with many of the Jews, as well as with others, whom otherwise I would not be able to reach. And then again, not in the wet weather, I have especially much reason to thank the friends of the model farm for the comfortable dwelling which I have for my family, as, hitherto, I have not seen a single house in Jaffa where, during the rainy season, the rooms are not drenched; and in many other respects the model farm is our helpmeet in the mission. It is a most desirable institution to accustom Jews to labour, and I am sure that many of the friends of Israel at home would be delighted to see a dozen of Jews, in their Jewish dresses, hard at work from morning to evening, whatever the weather may be, gaining actually their daily bread by the sweat of their brow, whilst at the same time they have the opportunity to become acquainted with the truths of the Gospel; and as for konverts, it offers a comfortable home for such as are desirous to pursue agriculture, Ir who, for professing Christianity, have lost their livelihood in the Jewish cominunity.
I am much interested in the accounts contained in the Herald, and trust that our Society's work, though slowly, will progress steadily and certainly, and that by our instrumentality and united efforts many of the sons and daughters of Israel may be led to embrace Christ,
The three merchant brothers paid me a visit Saturday before last. They came as early as two, and did not leave till nearly eight o'clock. So soon as the customary salutations had been exchanged, and they were scated, they desired that my dear father should join us,- I suppose to appeal to him, as on former occasions, for support against me; but in this they reckoned without their host, for he repeatedly sided with me and expressed approbation of what I advanced. The conversation was, as usual, desultory. I could not, nor could my father, for whom they profess great respect, prevail on them to investigate one subject at a time. Weary of having to reply to each on separate and detached points, a felicitous thought struck me. They had frequently told me how much they would like to hear me preach. I opened a drawer, took out a sermon in Judeo-Spanish I had delivered in August 23rd, 1857, in Smyrna, when, by the blessing of God, I was instrumental in gathering a small congregation of believing and inquiring Israelites, to whom it was my happiness to preach every Lord's day, and proposed to read it to them. All with one voice assented. My brother Moses came in shortly after I began, and as my sister and younger brother were likewise present, I had seven immortal souls listening to it. The discourse was on the solemn admonition in Jer, vi. 16 : “ Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and, walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.” They listened most attentively, and when I had done, the three brothers expressed their full approbation of what I read, objecting only to the part where Christ is pointed out as the only way to pardon, reconciliation, and salvation. I asked them to take the Bible in hand, and show that there is any other. This they said they did not deem themselves competent to do. I pointed out several passages where the Messiah is spoken of as the Saviour, and I am glad to say the conversation that ensued produced a good impression on their minds, and I have promised to read them another the next Saturday they come. Most happy should I feel if they and others would come every Saturday regularly. I trust the time is not far distant when such will be the case. None will rejoice more than myself, but at present I cannot reckon upon a regular attendance at my lodgings, and the use of the temple cannot be got, either for Jews or Spaniards.
These are but a few selections from my journal. They will show that, by God's aid, the Gospel is preached, and that it finds hearers. But I long for the harvest. I long also to proclaim the glad tidings of salvation to thousands of my brethren scattered throughout the interior of this province. But the Society must be more liberally supported to enable us to spread the truth on every side. I shall take the liberty of addressing our friends on this subject, in my next communication.
IBRAILA. From the Rev. A. GELLERT :
I cannot more fitly head my present report than by using the inspired words of the wisest of all men : "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand, for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.” Since my last statement, thank God, more ample and more advantageous opportunities have been granted me than I have had for some time, of pressing home the Divine truth, not only on the minds, but even the consciences of many of my Jewish brethren in Ibraila ; some of whom called at my own residence, evidently desirous of learning something about the Christian religion ;